Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Book Review Notes: The Feeling of Value, pass 2

See also the main review for The Feeling of Value.

These are the notes on my second pass reading The Feeling of Value. I was trying to write a summary of the book during this pass.

I have added comments in blockquotes. Quotes from Rawlette are sometimes set off with --'s.

Feeling of Value Summary, ch 1 - 3



Brief overview of the whole book.

Chaper 1:

pp. 7 - 10

People doubt whether moral realism is worth thinking about. Rawlette says she will show how the extra effort of thinking about it helps us to overcome some of our biases and motivate us more.

The realism/anti-realism distinction

pp. 10 - 15

Rawlette gives a definition for realism vs. anti-realism in normative affairs. She discusses constructivism and projectivism as actually being anti-realist. She explains why she prefers "judgment-independence" to "mind-independence" as criterion for realism. (When you experience pain or pleasure, that very experience in your mind grounds right and wrong on her view.)

Arguments that belief in antirealism shouldn't affect our first-order normative judgments

pp. 15 - 18

Rawlette discusses some of the views of anti-realists, which claim that coming to be an anti-realist does not affect what you care about. She asserts that it does, because you lose the sense that you need to conform your moral judgments to what it judgment-independent.

Perspectival bias

pp. 19 - 22

Rawlette discusses perspectival bias ("human beings, as we actually are, are not equally motivated to attend to the interests of all other human beings"). Then considers realism vs. anti-realism with respect to how their metaethical views ought to affect their perspectival bias.

pp. 22 - 25

----- New question: Rawlette says that people who come to believe that their experience has a certain value, will see that other people's experiences have similar value when they are similar. And thus we come to overcome perspectival bias. That may follow, but is it possible that in reality, what often happens is that people do not value their own experience (don't consider their pain objectively wrong), but happen to live according to it? Perhaps because it's unbearable to do otherwise. But it is bearable to not live like other people's experiences have inherent value, to not [or "so that they do not"] hurt the pained person, for instance. They do not value their own experience, and, fairly enough, don't value other people's. So judgment-independence may more essentially lead to people treating everyone the same, but only in the moral component. We are really more motivated by what is bearable, not what is right or wrong. So something has to convince us to push against following what is bearable or unbearable, if we're really to be motivated to overcome our perspectival bias in a practical sense. Establishing that what happens to you matters morally, if it can overcome bearability/unbearability is a step that Rawlette maybe contributes toward later.

You can be morally realist, but if you base your moral realism on your own perceptions of "ought-to-be-ness", then if you don't happen to have strong senses of that, you may feel little reason to go out of your way to care about other people's well-being. You will still act like you care about yourself because you can't bear all the hungers, pains, etc. that impinge on you. ------

Rawlette tries to show how judgment-independence itself causes us to work against our perspectival biases. We see that we experience the value of pleasure / disvalue of pain, and think, if that is true for me, it must be true for anyone else's pleasure / pain.


pp. 25 - 26

Summary of Chapter 1


Chapter 2:

pp. 27 - 28

Brief overview of chapter 2. There are realisms that Rawlette rejects, and her realism is built as a response to their flaws.

pp. 28 - 40 Intuitionism

Rawlette criticizes intuitionism, on the grounds that people's moral intuitions can contradict. Therefore what seems self-evident (or in her terms, "self-justifying") can't be trusted in.

pp. 40 - 48 Minimal realism

----- Sidebar: on p. 45, Rawlette says that mathematical realism doesn't have a practical outcome, but moral realism does (for reasons she gave in ch. 1). I think mathematical realism could have a practical outcome. A simantist view of mathematics is that you relate to mathematical objects, so they are real. To call them real is an affirmation of your experience and you seeing things from your own point of view as a person, rather than denying what you see. Your perception is valid because God speaks mathematics. What you perceive has a deeper reality because God follows up on it. So mathematical realism can found or aid an honest, personalist, trusting approach to life, when supported by simantist theism. -----

For "simantism" see here.

Rawlette rejects minimal realism (the view that metaphysical questions do not apply to ethics because there is nothing "out there" in the world that informs them) because it implies that moral facts have no connection to moral judgments. If we have moral judgments, they are not evidence of moral facts. But if this is so, then we are effectively anti-realists, so this position is not effectively a form of realism.

pp. 48 - 58 Ideal-observer theory

----- Sidebar: When you encounter a qualia [quale] of ought-to-be-ness, is that in fact essentially the statement "you should find this experience valuable"? Why should we trust random feelings in this? -----

----- Sidebar: on p. 54, Rawlette mentions that desires (an element of an ideal-observer theory) can be known to be entirely contingent, on "evolutionary and personal history" and that we could theoretically "change people's ultimate desires by rewiring their brains to give them positive attitudes toward different objects".

Then she says --But if our ultimate desires are so highly contingent and malleable, what reason do we have for thinking that they are the basis for anything deserving of the name of "objective value"?--

Aren't normative qualia produced just as much through these contingent processes? Yes, but they still are attractive or unbearable in themselves (or valuable / disvaluable). -----

Rawlette rejects ideal-observer theories, which say that a person can find judgment-independent moral truth by imagining their idealized, more or less omniscient self's desires, because these theories depend on desires, which can be arbitrary and contingent, and are thus really anti-realisms.

pp. 58 - 63 Synthetic naturalism

----- Sidebar: Dworkin's "morons" (see for instance p. 47) make me think. If one should be skeptical of the existence of morality because we would need fundamental moral particles, and materialism / physicalism does not observe such things, maybe this is evidence for panpsychism or personalism. But even panpsychism may only give us descriptive experience and not normative experience. (Descriptive consciousness and not normative consciousness.) Normative consciousness being opinions that things should be a certain way. Can opinions have their own fundamental particles? Or are they fundamentally persons or parts of persons?

There could be a moral argument against the desirability of believing in materialism / physicalism: materialism undermines moral realism. Moral realism undoes some perspectival bias. (I could add, motivates people to do their best, more than they would naturally want.) Undoing perspectival bias effectively expands the moral circle. So materialism comes at a cost, reducing altruism at least on the above dimensions.

Morality is presented in stark terms. We become more moral because of it [the presentation of morality], but not really. The absolute moves us but we forget the absolute. Living up to an absolute is hard, even if the absolute is "do your best" or "no luxury". Arguably (hopefully), it isn't so hard if you have a supportive culture, which we currently don't have. But as you solve problems, you make the urgency of altruism fade. Maybe this has already happened. Only a relatively few enthusiasts pursue altruism in their own time. Maybe the rest would be motivated if it was clear that "we're all in this together and we have to work for each other". So altruism naturally slacks off as things improve. Unless, the altruists are motivated by a standard stricter than what seems to tend to satisfy most people. Or even, that most people can come to have that standard, that in a sense requires them to have better lives than they want to have. -----

Rawlette rejects synthetic naturalism as a route to moral realism because it does not offer an account of what goodness is. Synthetic naturalism says that certain physical properties are the same as what is good, perhaps ones which causally regulate our saying "good" in a homeostatic way. (I don't fully understand this section, but this is my understanding.) Unfortunately, there are different ways that we could have evolved to say "good", perhaps due to being on different planets or in different cultures. So we aren't talking about the same thing when we say 'good', talking to someone from a different background. So this can't be the foundation of judgment-independent moral realism. We haven't figured out what "good" means in a way that justifies it against some kind of disagreement.

(I think I would understand this section better if I knew what was meant by "causal regulation". A quick search didn't reveal a definition, and I didn't feel like digging to find one.)

pp. 64 - 66 Criteria for a plausible realism

Rawlette gives four criteria for a plausible realism:

1) "An account of our concept of goodness". It may have to be a circular definition, in the end, or a description rather than a definition. Have some idea of what this "goodness" idea is.

2) "An explanation of the way in which things in the world objectively satisfy our concept of goodness." There has to be some connection with the way things are (as far as we can perceive them) and our judgment that they are good.

3) "An explanation of the way in which we can come to know which things objectively satisfy our concept of goodness." We have to be able to know the reasons why we connect "good" to a thing or state of affairs.

4) "An explanation of why we are often mistaken about what is good." Given that we have some way to say "this is good", or for any thing, "this is good", and have reason to know it, why do people disagree on moral matters? Why is our view both true and not obvious, or not universally adopted?

Rawlette points out that the attempted realisms given earlier in the chapter do not pass her test, then mentions analytic descriptivism as a promising candidate, to consider in the next chapter.

Does the moral realism associated with MSLN pass the test? 1) Goodness is a person, to be good is to be aligned with that person. 2) We can know some things about that person and what they want, and identify opportunities to do what they want in the world. 3) We can use reason to come up with a best guess as to what things are in line with the person of goodness. 4) We are mistaken about morality because people have not come to believe in this person, and if they do believe, there is still room for disagreement because we don't always know 100% what the person wants.

Ch. 3

pp. 69 - 71

Rawlette introduces the subsequent chapter. Her argument will connect the feeling of goodness or badness to good and bad. In this way, there is something outside human judgment -- but still accessible to the human mind -- which can be the foundation of valuing and disvaluing.

pp. 72 - 75 What are normative qualia?

Normative qualia are the very qualia of goodness or badness, in their purest, most basic form. Rawlette wants to claim that the feeling of goodness is goodness itself, and the feeling of badness is badness itself.

----- Sidebar: Is there a quale of God? If so, then we can know that God exists just by seeing it (Reformed epistemology). But having seen it, we can then unsee it. Then, seeing it again, we wonder, does it really tell us that God exists? Does the appearance of something necessarily convey the reality behind it? On the other hand, we can't be wrong about seeing redness. But if we see redness, is there anything else that we should conclude? For instance, if I see red on my arm, I might think I was bleeding. It might be the case that I'm bleeding, but if I feel no pain, and my arm isn't wet to the touch there, then it probably isn't bleeding. The redness enters into a relationship with other things. So Rawlette's normative qualia may, or may not, have a connection to how things are in the world, or how we act. They are the appearances of good, which we would want to check with other facts that make something good. Rawlette wants to reduce those other facts to things which give us normative qualia, so that the value there is founded on those qualia. -----

----- Sidebar: Rawlette might say that an opinion necessarily contains normative qualia. An opinion, as experienced, involves a normative quale applied to an object. But, an opinion goes beyond just a normative quale. Instead, we ourselves affirm something as being worthy or unworthy. When you say "that thing is worthy", are you only saying "in my experience or judgment, that thing leads to normative qualia"? Or rather, the thing itself is worthy, in an undecomposed way? Are you in any way free to say "that is not good" to something with positive normative qualia? To say that positive normative qualia themselves are not inherently good? If you are free, then you are a person. If you are not free, you might not be. Do *you* really find things to be good (including normative qualia)? Or are you just saying what you have to say because normative qualia compel you? -----

----- Sidebar: Is it possible to have normative qualia about normative qualia? In theory, it should be possible. It's certainly possible to have judgments about judgments and feelings about feelings. So if you have feelings of disvalue about feelings of value, or feelings of value about feelings of disvalue, what does that say? If these feelings are really separate, then Rawlette could say "looking at them non-intentionally, separately, we have good feelings of goodness and bad feelings of badness". But can they be separated? My experience with thinking about [Person X (see pass 1)] causes me to doubt that they can, or at least that some really are complicated, fusions of "ought-to-be-ness" and "ought-not-to-be-ness". So if my qualia of ought-to-be-ness itself had at least a tinge of ought-not-to-be-ness, then how firm a foundation could they be for moral realism? It would depend on how strong the ought-not-to-be element was. Or, perhaps, on how much we trusted or ought to trust quiet signals. The quiet can be more trustworthy than the loud.

I think I may have meant "my overall attitude toward ought-to-be-ness in all its instances, or ought-to-be-ness in specific cases, could be ambivalent, and I would need some way to parse what the deeper ought is in a given situation, or on the whole." An ought-to-be quale which is actually ambivalent may not be ought-to-be.

There may be some people who are "ought-to-be-ness-blind". They perceive what Rawlette would find full of ought, and see no ought, only "this feels unbearable to me" or "this feels attractive to me". Are they like the "God-blind", who see no God in the universe? The God-seeing see the quale of God, but is there really a God? The ought-seer (Rawlette?) sees the quale of ought, but is there really ought?

That might be an argument against Rawlette, that if you assume that there is an ought, you might find it hard not to think that normative qualia are themselves good or bad intrinsically. But what if you're not sure that there even is an ought? Am I saying "a moral skeptic or anti-realist does not trust the proposition that there really is an ought, and so they won't find it in normative qualia, and thus Rawlette's argument doesn't turn them away from moral skepticism / anti-realism"? If so, then Rawlette's argument is at best useful on those who have a secret or not-so-secret moral realist side, underneath their layers of skepticism or anti-realism. -----

pp. 75 - 79 The experience of pain

Pain can be split into nociception and the feeling of badness. This feeling is not a judgment, but rather the perception of a quale of badness.

----- Sidebar: The opposite of "utility monster": a "utility pond". The pond is just there. Fish may swim in it, frogs may go in and out. The sun shines on it, then goes below the horizon. It evaporates and is replenished. It only desires to be itself. And the boundaries of it even can vary.

Those maximally sensitive to normative qualia become utility monsters, those minimally sensitive become utility ponds. -----

----- Sidebar: Simantist take on qualia of badness in pain: it has badness, it really has it, because of who you are. -----

p. 79 - 86 Phenomenology or behavioral disposition?

Rawlette considers whether pain is simply nociception married to a disposition of aversion, apart from any phenomenology of badness, and says no, because we have empirical reasons to think that aversive behaviors and thoughts, and phenomenology, are not always connected. She points out that for some reason, aversive and attractive phenomenology affect decision-making, and so probably have an essential connection to reality, in themselves. We consider ourselves to have ethical responsibilities toward animals if we believe they feel pain, rather than mere exhibit aversive behavior.

pp. 87 - 94

The qualia of goodness and badness can be found in pleasures of all sorts, and pains of all sorts, in all pleasant and unpleasant experiences, as diverse as they may be (Rawlette quotes someone contrasting the pleasures of "a rock-and-roll band, or the taste of a great wine" (p. 92)). They are each one quale, or each a dimension of qualia (Rawlette doesn't think the distinction matters for her argument), distinct from whatever qualia make up an individual pleasant or unpleasant thing.

----- Sidebar: p. 91 - Cabanac's experiment shows that humans tend to flow toward maximizing pleasure, minimizing pain. "...their subsequent behavioral choices tend to produce the highest algebraic sum of pleasure as defined by these ratings." Hedonistic determinism -- we are ruled by our pleasure and pain, whatever happens to give us pleasure or pain. The ability to willingly endure pain is freedom. -----

pp. 95 - 100 Objective normativity and non-intentionality

Rawlette points out that normativity does not have to be intentional, that it can apply directly to the normative qualia themselves, and not have to apply to the objects that occasion the normative qualia.

----- Sidebar: p. 95 --The goal of this section, however, is to explain in detail a point I made earlier in this chapter: that the objective goodness or badness of the instantiations of normative qualia is not some goodness or badness that they supposedly confer on an object but the goodness or badness of the instantiations of the normative qualia themselves. Although instantiations of normative qualia are very often associated with other phenomenal qualities or with physical objects -- as in the cases of pain and of disliking certain foods -- what is intrinsically good or bad is the goodness or badness itself, not an object that causes it or a sensation that happens to be felt simultaneously with it.--

Does Rawlette deny that objects can be good and bad in themselves, apart from the qualia they occasion? We certainly observe that objects can be good and bad. When we think about the qualia of goodness and badness, are we thinking about philosophical objects, to which we can ascribe "intrinsic goodness" or "intrinsic badness"? It seems like we are. Why not say of a rock "it is intrinsically good"? Is it impossible for a rock to always be good despite how it makes us feel? The rock itself, not just its qualia. If we say that objects do not have properties, we go against experience. Reducing the world to pure experience is a move we could make, in which it would seem that there is nothing except the qualia of value and disvalue, as far as what human beings can care about. But we do not experience a world of flat phenomenology, and instead, we, as things, relate to objects and persons, as things. It seems to me that we might want to try to rewrite all of our judgments so that we find intrinsic goodness only in the qualia of goodness and badness, those qualia taken as good or bad objects, and no other objects taken as good or bad objects, but how can we know that rocks are not intrinsically good? We could say that, in a sense, we can make a political or sociological decision to stop listening to the possibility of the intrinsic goodness of rocks, and this might be a pragmatic thing to do, but it doesn't seem like a fully justified thing to do from an epistemic standpoint. But if rocks can be intrinsically good, despite our feelings about them, then the qualia of normativity are not the only things that determine value. I think that may be what I get from Rawlette: I agree with her defense of those qualia as being good and bad in themselves, but I would say they are strongly prima facie good and bad, but that there are conflicts between them and other more or less strongly prima facie goods and bads, and there remains something to be done to sort them out. -----

pp. 100 - 101 Conclusion

Summary of the chapter.

----- Sidebar: What has the qualia of goodness or badness may always seem good or bad to any human, by definition, [";"? or "--"?] is "seeming-goodness/badness to all humans at all times" really the foundation of goodness and badness? It might be if we are being political/sociological, and assume that there are no judges besides humans. -----

I think splitting the first sentence between "definition" and "is" allows it to make some sense.

----- Sidebar: (not directly based on reading, just a note I thought of): the qualia of goodness has to be found enriching by us, and the qualia of badness has to be found costly by us, and so we are biased to find them really good or really bad, from our perspectives. Whether our perspectives really matter, whether enrichment or costliness really matter, are separate questions. "Costliness matters" if effective in itself, is so as an opinion of a person. An ultimately valid person can affirm the provisional validity with which we say "ought-to-be-ness is good, ought-not-to-be-ness is bad". -----


Feeling of Value Summary, ch. 4 - 7 (part)

Ch. 4 intro pp. 103 - 106

Rawlette introduces the chapter, saying that she wants to come up with descriptive content for her normativity.

----- Sidebar: In ordinarist terms, Rawlette is trying to motivate people to look at other people and their situations as deserving response ([what I just said potentially being] a way to write "overcome perspectival bias" in ordinarist terms). A moral anti-realist has ordinary morality, but lacks an ontological basis for it, and feels fine about it. Is an ontological basis really needed? Maybe, if it motivates overcoming perspectival bias. Or if somehow it can indicate that our ordinary understanding is wrong. But anti-realists seem to think it is not necessary. It may be a nice thing to have, but there doesn't have to be a rational grounding to all ordinary things.

"Ordinarist" vs. "ontological" can be found explained here.

Is it really OK to make exceptions in reason? Where would this take us? We might feel nervous doing that, like there is something really at stake. So we perceive that there is such a thing as real value, for us to be nervous about losing. A qualia [quale] of "something-at-stake-ness". This qualia [quale] refers to gain and loss, rather than pleasure and pain. We could gain or lose orthogonally to pleasure or pain.

Or orthogonally to qualia of ought-to-be-ness or ought-not-to-beness.

Somehow we know that perspectival bias is bad without a theory of moral realism. Do we need the theory of moral realism, or should we just say "don't have perspectival bias", and apply psychological pressure on those who do have it? Arguably, it is more polite to reason with people (less forceful, brutal).

Moral anti-realists do believe in the reality of morality, ordinaristically. They act as though it is binding on them even if they don't have a reason why it should be binding on them, and even if they make up reasons why it's not real. There's a split between reason and lived life, and the lived life is in the ordinary.

Ordinaristically, we want a kind of wholeness between reason and experience. So an anti-realist ontologistic position on morality clashes with our ordinary experience of morality. So we might want to have no ontologistic theory of morality at all, or have one which gives a satisfying account of ordinaristic morality. As reasoning people, we find it hard to have no theory at all, but we can forget our anti-realist ontologist way of thinking when we are actually being moral.

One of the uses of moral reasoning is not just to establish that it really is, but potestas clavium-fashion to say what it is. If you want to believe in morality, there is a way to believe in it, and this conditions what kind of morality you can believe in [what specific things you consider right and wrong]. So theories of moral realism are useful as ways to discover or highlight aspects of ordinarist morality which we might have forgotten. When we see the theory open up some new dimension of reality, we may recognize as from a pre-existence the validity of its ordinarist conclusions, even if having heard them (e.g. the sermon "overcome perspectival bias"), we wouldn't have really believed in them, without the theoretical grounding.


"Potestas clavium" comes from Lev Shestov's Potestas Clavium. It means "we find a rationale for our salvation, and then that rationale excludes some other people who don't measure up to it". In this case, the analogy is that when we come up with a justification for moral realism, it comes with baggage / help in making decisions / extra information.

pp. 106 - 117 The Open Question Argument

The Open Question Argument (of Moore) says that if you say "What is good is what is pleasant" then if you ask "is pleasure good?" it's like asking "Are pleasant things pleasant?" But asking "is pleasure good?" makes sense. So then, what is good? Rawlette thinks that the way out of this is to say that goodness itself is a quale -- locate it in something outside the world of human judgment. Then she considers and rejects objections to this thought, particularly those against pleasure being intrinsically good, or pain intrinsically bad.

----- Sidebar: pp. 106 - 107

Rawlette mentions the Open Question Argument, which seems to be saying "If pleasure and good are the same, then we couldn't ask if pleasure was good". We could ask this question of a number of things: "Is receptivity to reality good? Is trust good? Is preference-satisfaction good? Is wealth good? Are pyramids/ziggurats good? Is freedom good? Is being yourself good? Is agency good? Is the creation of goodness itself good [i.e. something like Nietzsche's creation of values]?" A moral realism theory can remove some of those options, and try to reduce the rest down to its criterion. For instance, Rawlette could get rid of the ubermensch [Nietzschean] option and claim that preference-satisfaction is really only good in that it maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. But from an ordinarist position, some or all of these things can be good in themselves. We see them to be so. So what makes them all good? How would we balance them? Is there a meta-axiology at play, in valuing one axiology more than another? Some kind of exchange rate between them? What in the world would determine that axiology? We could -- as moral anti-realists, we could arbitrarily say that some selection of axiologies weighted a certain way was the good. If we try something like what Rawlette proposes, we risk losing some good. Aren't preferences good in themselves? Isn't it possible that increasing preference satisfaction by one unit when you hardly have any is better then perfecting pleasure / pain when they are getting into diminishing returns?

Is there a moral realism that can be nuanced enough to include and properly balance all the different goods that exist? Something human-judgment-independent, forcing us out of perspectival bias and motivating us to be excellent, beyond what we, as the human species, naturally prefer? If God is the one who understands all goods and how to balance them, then it is good for us to base our moral realism in his opinion, his way of seeing reality. This preserves the ordinaristic plenitude of types of good. Can there be a plausible ontologistic reason why God's opinion is completely valid -- and which God is implied by such an ontology? -----

God may invalidate some apparent goods, just as Rawlette's theory would. But it would be possible to find all apparent goods to be good, if God's opinion is really what grounds good. His opinion would not have to be a simplified calculation ("maximize positive normative qualia / minimize negative") but could be idiosyncratic and complex, just like our own axiologies are, and thus able to capture goodness that falls outside any criterion of simplistic reason.

----- Sidebar: Could it be that Rawlette's normative qualia are best not associated with pleasure and pain as we normally think of them? In that case, there could be a quale that we refer to verbally with "this should be". And this is the good, and it can apply to all that we ought to put in the grab bag of "things that humans ordinaristically think are good", and also to the exchange rates between them. Or, this quale of "should" is how we identify the ordinaristic goods in the first place. Or, "quale" is an ontological way of describing that thing that we identify as good.

If Rawlette would accept that as following from her thinking, should I agree with it? Maybe God himself is trying to maximize his qualia of normativity, and will adjust our ways of feeling to fit his. -----

----- Does Rawlette want to legislate behavior based on her theory? Arguably yes -- and there are cases where it seems like she's being uncontroversial in that. (Opposing perspectival bias, or saying that pain is pro tanto bad.) But I can imagine -- and have some personal experience -- with the phenomenon of undergoing a great deal of pain in order to remain being myself. Should I be forced to be a different person so that I don't feel pain? Is being myself a good that can justify a lot of pain, and if it can't be justified, should I be forced to not be myself?

Is it that I got a great deal of pleasure from being myself? Not necessarily. Nor is it the case that I was necessarily motivated by some payoff in pleasure for myself or others in the future. I would have valued being myself anyway, even without hope of that. Looking back, I'm glad I did suffer for the sake of being myself. So I think this may say that I can value something that goes athwart hedonism.

But it is true that I found what I was doing to "ought-to-be". I felt "ought-to-be-ness" to it -- a kind of purpose (ungrounded as that purpose was in anything other than me being myself). The ought-to-be-ness of purpose enables you to discount the ought-not-to-be-ness of the moments of pain. Rawlette does say that goodness is really just "ought-to-be-ness" and badness "ought-not-to-be-ness". So perhaps I was experiencing value the whole time, despite my pain. But I think even if you told me that I wasn't experiencing value, or that the experience of value was not the intrinsic nature of value itself, I would still feel like I had done the right thing, as though being myself is a value in itself, apart from the experience of value. Somewhat like Nietzsche, I could look back on how I had been myself in some moment of true me-ness from the perspective of years later, and that one moment could give my life value, over and above all the moments of pleasure and pain I had felt. -----

Perhaps another point to make would be to compare the quantity of ought-to-be-ness of being myself versus the quantity of ought-not-to-be-ness. While the quality of the qualia of ought-to-be-ness of being myself seem to have been higher (to me), the quantity was definitely less than the counterweighing qualia of ought-not-to-be-ness.

----- Sidebar: Seeing things to be so: a commingling of preferences and raw perception. It's hard to separate the two. If I see something to be wrong, do I make it wrong, or is it always wrong? If I make it wrong, then I will immediately feel it's wrongness. The ambiguity between how meaning is inherent in what we look at, but it depends on who we are (our preferences), but it speaks to us according to its meaning beyond the force of our own wills. One lens on legitimacy is that it is a form of meaning. When we value things, we see them to be valuable. So there is an interplay between our preferences and external reality, which makes them valuable to us. Are they really valuable? Do they have a kind of transcendent legitimacy? Perhaps we gain true information about legitimacy through the valuings we make about things. Mixed with our preferences and personal ways of getting qualia out of external reality are qualia and meanings which we do not invent. But then, where did they come from? It's very tempting to say that legitimacy comes from something having been made the right way, or having been seen to be a certain way by someone who is qualified to see them that way. These criteria lean toward saying God is the source of legitimacy, and that is what I want to argue. But I'm biased, and other people may be more capable than I am to see a different way, and I wish I could see things their way, if it exists.

I want to say that legitimacy itself makes things legitimate -- so then, how does legitimacy exist? It has to be able to make things what they are, put the legitimacy in them. It seemingly has to value things, to see them as they are, as they ought to be. To fuse both making and valuing into one act: to see something as such, an opinion so strong it is flesh.

So where Rawlette locates legitimacy in qualia, I would locate it in a person. Both can be said to be made out of consciousness, but there is a difference between the two. -----

pp. 117 - 124 The advantages of analytic descriptivism

Rawlette evaluates her analytic descriptivism by the four criteria for a robust realism given in Chapter 2. She thinks that it passes the tests.

Ch. 5

pp. 125 - 127 intro

Rawlette wants to go from pro tanto goodness / badness to goodness / badness all-things-considered. She thinks that the way to do this is to add up the value from each quale of goodness occasioned by an action and then subtract the value from each quale of badness.

pp. 127 - 139 Are others' qualia normative for me?

Rawlette says that others' qualia are normative for one, because they "present as having agent-neutral value" and "they do not contain any reference to any particular action or agent."

pp. 128 - 131 (subsection) 1. Positive arguments

Rawlette says that when we experience pain, we do not think it is only for us to avoid it, that gives no one else a reason to help us. Similarly with pleasure. She claims that normative qualia are "ought-to-be-ness" or "ought-not-to-be-ness" and do not prescribe in themselves a way to alleviate or promote them, nor on whom it is incumbent to act to alleviate or promote them.

pp. 131 - 134 (subsection) 2. Objections

Rawlette considers and rejects reasons internalism as an objection to her theory.

pp. 134 - 139

Rawlette uses Parfit's Reasons and Persons to support an argument that says that subjects do not really exist, at least not absolutely enough to say that a quale could only be what it is for one subject.

p. 139 (subsection) 4. Conclusion

Rawlette gives a practical reason for ignoring most normative qualia (we are more effective in doing the good that we can if we do so)

pp. 140 - 142 Are goodness and badness additive?

Rawlette says normative qualia are additive because they are concrete, and thus add up like other concrete things.

pp. 142 - 143 (subsection) 1. Parfit's alternative proposal

Rawlette discusses Derek Parfit's rejection of the Impersonal Total Principle ("If other things are equal, the best outcome is the one in which there would be the greatest quantity of whatever makes life worth living.")

pp. 143 - 145 (subsection) 2. Against Parfit's proposal

Rawlette discusses "intrinsic good", highlighting its difference from instrumental and extrinsic good. Also from goods whose value depend on the existence of a separate moral fact.

She claims that purely intrinsic goods can't have diminishing marginal utility because there would have to be some higher good that could measure them as diminishing. (My understanding: So if something is of diminishing marginal value, we normally say it's worth less relative to something else. If there were only one good thing to be maximized, there could be only one kind of marginal value, one to one with each unit of "good thing" added.)

----- Sidebar: p. 144:

--However, the model of changing marginal value does not work for one class of goods: purely intrinsic goods. This is because, in order for the marginal value of a good to fall (or rise), some of its value must be understood in terms of the value of some other good.--

So what if the qualia of goodness and badness are just one of a number of different intrinsic goods? -----

pp. 145 - 149 (subsection) 3. Objections to additivity

Rawlette considers and rejects the possibility of there really being multiple intrinsic values (anything in addition to normative qualia).

She considers and rejects Parfit's claim that happiness can be of diminishing marginal value to a world but not to an individual.

----- Sidebar: p. 147 --Parfit has to distinguish between value to an individual and value to a world because, while in order to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion, he wants lives after a certain quantity to stop adding value to a world, he obviously can't deny that every extra life worth living is at least valuable to the person living it.--

Perhaps one of the intrinsic goods that compete with normative qualia are persons themselves. In that case, there could be an "Even More Repugnant Conclusion", which says that persons are of inestimable value, because they will prolong lives that aren't even worth living. So then, depending on the exchange rates between "persons" and "lives worth living", we might feel compelled to consider morally best a world with even more people than that of the Repugnant conclusion, in which people have lives that aren't even worth living, but which they must continue in order to continue themselves. -----

pp. 149 - 153 (subsection) 5. [sic] Concluding argument

Rawlette claims that it is the intrinsic qualitative nature of normative qualia which give a reason to act. Therefore we can't prefer average utilitarianism (we would claim that each unit of happiness in the "Repugnant" world is worth less than in the "nice" world), nor can we endorse concerns of equality that contradict total utilitarianism. She considers and rejects the possibility of the Repugnant Conclusion being something we could practically implement. She claims that we find "Repugnant" worlds distasteful because we feel sympathy for the individuals who would live in them, but this does not affect the math adding up normative qualia to form an overall quantity of good or bad.

----- Sidebar: Normative uncertainty and moral realism combined: there is an absolute and exact exchange rate, down to the finest detail. Everything thinkable thing has some exact absolute value and exchange rate with all other thinkable things. However, we don't know what this is, only God knows this. The nature of God gives us a broad idea what values he would put on things. Beyond that, it's up to us to learn his will through our own lives. So human governments should promote that process, consider that their "utility function". -----

pp. 153 - 158 Practical questions

Rawlette offers some solutions to problems in measuring and comparing normative qualia.

pp. 158 - 159 Conclusion

Rawlette summarizes the chapter.

pp. 163 - 165 Introduction to Part III

Rawlette introduces chapters 6 and 7.

Ch. 6

pp. 167 - 171 intro

Chapter six is introduced. Rawlette will attempt to show that hedonic utilitarianism is not in conflict with our moral intuition, in the cases that we actually confront (as opposed to hypothetical ones used in thought experiments).

pp. 171 - 173 Act utilitarianism versus rule utilitarianism

Rawlette affirms act utilitarianism and rejects rule utilitarianism.

pp. 173 - 176 Preliminaries about the utility-maximizing decision procedure

Rawlette considers what she calls "Straightforward Utilitarian Decision Procedure" (know everything, add up all possible consequences to all possible actions, choose the utility-maximizing one) and says that this is impractical, but that there can be other decision procedures which are simpler and which do maximize utility, which recommend exactly what the Straightforward UDP would.

pp. 176 - 178 First general feature of actual situations: Uncertainty

Because we don't have perfect information, we have to guess what is the best way to go, based on previous experience. Rawlette cites Gerd Gigerenzer's Gut Feelings: the Intelligence of the Unconscious as a source of a decision procedure that does not require having a lot of evidence / past experience (consider one relevant variable for which you have a lot of data, because adding variables shrinks your sample size, making you more vulnerable to random effects).

pp. 178 - 184 Second general feature of actual situations: Need for coordination

Promises are a good way to help coordinate behavior. But Straightforward UDP does not allow promises to be formed. Rawlette offers a modification of Straightforward UDP which does allow promises to be kept (in cases where you're unsure if keeping a promise is utilitous, err on the side of keeping it). Deviating from Straightforward UDP can further utility (can fulfill Straightforward UDP's goal).

pp. 184 - 189 Third general feature of actual situations: Motivational limitations

People tend to find it hard to motivate themselves to increase utility unless they (or those they care about) can reap the benefits of their work toward it. So it's best to let people have some kind of property (literal or figurative) which is protected from interference from others (thus, "rights"). People will tend to let their selfish bias override the more utilitous, other-favoring decisions, unless they have principles ingrained into them beforehand, of how to act in certain circumstances. What this (and the previous two sections) suggest is that we have rules and rights which we only violate (according to the dictates of something like Straightforward UDP) in exceptional circumstances -- which Rawlette points out is the way ordinary morality seems to work.

pp. 189 - 194 Applying this decision procedure to Transplant cases

Rawlette considers thought experiments in which it is supposed beneficial to sacrifice one healthy person to be able to transplant their organs in multiple people in need of a transplant, and finds it not recommended by her decision procedure.

pp. 195 - 197 The probability of destroying useful expectations

Rawlette continues her discussion of Transplant cases, specifically whether knowledge of one disturbing transplant can significantly damage people's expectations.

pp. 197 - 200 Conclusion

Rawlette discusses other anti-utilitarian thought experiments besides Transplant cases, still concluding that utilitarianism is viable, for reasons given earlier in the chapter.

Ch. 7

pp. 201 - 204 intro

Rawlette discusses the fact that there is a history of discussing and also rejecting hedonism, and identifies Robert Nozick's Experience Machine thought experiment as the prime obstacle to people accepting hedonism.

pp. 204 - 208 Pleasure and pain as indicators

Pleasure and pain are indicators of reality. In the long run, we experience more pleasure and less pain if we respond to reality.

----- Sidebar: Moral anti-realism says "there is no real morality, but rather what humans feel like, but we feel like acting like there is real morality, and in practice we make ourselves act like there is morality instead of it just being what people feel like." Hedonism either says "human beings have no value except as sources of pleasure" or it says "technically the foundation of morality is that humans have no value except as sources of pleasure, but in the moment I will value you as a person, because after all, that produces more pleasure in the long run". Hedonism is a kind of anti-realism about people-as-ends ["people-as-ends" as opposed to "people-as-means-to-another-end"]. Both hedonists and moral anti-realists act as though it is really right that people be ends, but their actual ontologistic worldview undermines that, but they ignore that in the ordinaristic moment. -----

I think that what moral anti-realists mean by "moral anti-realism" is often not how I characterize it here (my two points of reference for "moral anti-realism" are Rawlette's critical perspective and Lukas Gloor's different sympathetic perspective, which I encountered after reading Rawlette). It sort of seems from a distance that anti-realism must really be about saying "We have desires, so let's act on them" but turning around and feeling them to be truly moral in the moment. For the sake of these notes, we can say that moral anti-realists effectively do make this move. Hedonists, then, are parallelly anti-realist about intrinsic value of people. (Probably many wouldn't characterize themselves this way, like with moral anti-realists.)

pp. 208 - 213 Why the experience machine is a bad idea

Rawlette gives hedonistic reasons to reject the Experience Machine. It is impractical and dangerous to cut yourself off from reality. If it is safe, we would have to have very good computers take care of us.

Also, if we found ourselves in a 100% safe world for using the Machine, there would be no point to being in touch with reality, so we would be so bored we might as well use it.

----- Sidebar: The Experience Machine is not technically a purely solipsistic experience because it is the Speaker who speaks whatever experiences we have to us. Unless we cease to exist in the Experience Machine -- the Machine overrides even our own agency. At worst the Experience Machine is a dream or drug that puts us in bondage -- yet, God is still present in dreams and drugs. God will not allow those dreams or drugs to go on literally forever, because we need to grow up, become and be ourselves. If hedonism overrides our ability to make meaningful choices, it is a bad by erasing or captivating our personhood. -----

"The Speaker" is a simantist name for God. That captivation could be a serious problem, if it trains people to trust curated experience and not God, to the extent of leading to hardening.

pp. 214 - 216 Our valuing something vs. its having objective value

Rawlette argues that perceptions of value or disvalue, as applied to objects, are not as reliable as the perception that the normative qualia themselves (as perceptions) are valuable or disvaluable.

----- Sidebar: p. 216 --Nozick probably means to rely on something's seeming valuable (and thus provoking desire) as prima facie evidence for its actually being valuable. This would be fine if something's being valuable was always reducible to facts about our perception of it (in the case with the intrinsic goodness and badness of phenomenal qualities). But if the value of being connected to the real world is supposed to be independent of any perception of ours, then our perception's being evidence for its value must be established by evidence of a correlation between our perceptions and perception-independent value. That is, we have to have some perception-independent method of determining which things are valuable to confirm the reliability of our perceptions of value. I'm very pessimistic about the possibility of finding such a method, and that's why I endorse the view that the only thing intrinsically normative is phenomenology itself, the intrinsic qualities of which are identical to the qualities we experience them as having.--

We could look at intuition as being a form of perception of some kind of noetic reality. Arguably, this is why we get into metaethics in the first place (Rawlette seems to point to this on p. 3: "The version of realism I present actually provides a robust metaethical justification for many of our strongest moral convictions." Who cares about moral convictions unless they might point to some kind of reality?[)] So while it may be the case that qualia of goodness and badness have a particularly strong case to be made for their actual goodness and badness, if we blinded ourselves to all other normative intuitions, we might be worse off epistemically, possess a more misleading worldview. -----

----- Sidebar: What establishes whether it is right that a thing give rise to a normative quale? Can her metaethics help us there? What establishes that it's valid for a quale to be taken as the quality it communicates? For instance, why should the yellow of a rose be yellowness itself? Why should we take it so if it is? -----

pp. 216 - 220 Why taking something to be intrinsically valuable could be instrumentally valuable

Rawlette gives reasons why it could be useful from a hedonistic point of view to see things as having intrinsic value.

Feeling of Value, Ch. 7 con't

pp. 220 - 224 Human pleasure vs. animal pleasure

Rawlette claims that her view elevates the status of animals (because their pleasure is no better or worse than ours), but gives practical reasons why a human life might be instrumentally more valuable than a given animal's life.

----- Sidebar: I find pain unbearable, and pleasure attractive. But I don't think I have a moral responsibility to not experience pain, or to experience pleasure. I will happen to reduce the most unbearable pain, and will find it easy to experience pleasure. If I choose to not maximize my pleasure or my pain, should I be forced to, to maximize value?

Maybe Rawlette ought to press "ought-to-be-ness" instead of pleasure on me. Is ought-to-be-ness something I have a moral obligation to seek in my own life? I could knowingly forego ought-to-be-ness. Somehow hedonism/normative-qualia-ism has to go from "ought-to-be-ness feels like it ought to be" to "we are morally required to make people feel ought-to-be-ness, and they are morally required to be made to have such". -----

Should ethics be a recommendation, "Here is the truth, use it if you want"? Or a requirement? I think people nowadays approach it as something in between.

----- Sidebar: Non-human animals certainly seem to have attractive and unbearable experiences, but do they really experience ought-to-be-ness and ought-not-to-be-ness? We may have a moral responsibility to not cause animals unbearability, but this isn't necessarily because unbearability is an instantiation of ought-not-to-be-ness. -----

p. 224 Conclusion

Summary of the chapter.


p. 225

Quick wrap-up of the whole book.

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